By: Sophie Guillet
I had always been a healthy and active person, but I never realized this would save my life. We were in Whistler, eager to get up the mountain and snowboard for our holidays. The mountain was in extremely poor conditions and it probably shouldn’t have been open that weekend. From the ground, I could tell the mountain was in the worst conditions I have ever seen it open in the 5 years I have spent riding it. Regardless, my boyfriend had just driven 18 hours to spend the holidays with me and we had made the trip up to specifically go riding that day.
Hundreds of people flooded the “Sunshine Boulevard” cat track, which was the only exit from the “Alpine” area. Since we did not want to waste 2 hours in a massive line for the 7th Heaven chairlift, we followed suit. Not only was it packed by people zooming past to exit that area, but there were rocks scattered throughout the run as well as a ditch of water flowing down the mountain. People were unstrapping their bindings and walking over the potential hazards. As I approached a particularly busy area of this run, I could see many rocks sporadically sticking out – I was scared that I would hit one. I reduced my speed, but by then it was too late. I hit a very large rock, projecting me to land on a hard packed ice flat. What was supposed to be a normal day of snowboarding with my boyfriend and friends turned into a whirlwind disaster!
My friends left immediately to get the Ski Patrol while my boyfriend and I waited. To pass the time, we began to film others falling in the same area. After a long time, waiting had become futile so we decided to slowly start walking to the chairlift. I didn’t know then, but with a damaged pancreas and spleen I walked almost the full trail – 4KM to the chairlift. When we got back to the village, I asked the Ski Patrol to check my injury and they assured me there was nothing wrong with me. Already I felt the resort had failed me. Not only were they opening ski areas that were clearly not safe, the Ski Patrol left me alone on the mountain and failed to notify me that I had a severe injury.
The moment I arrived home, I began vomiting blood and the abdominal pain became excruciating. I had tried to ‘shrug it off’ thinking that the pain I was feeling was because the wind had been knocked out of me. Thankfully my boyfriend knew better, he insisted we went straight to Whistler Hospital. After 6 hours of agony, a CT scan and MRI, I was diagnosed. I had spilt my pancreas upon impact and potentially, infected my spleen. I was rushed into trauma surgery. At the time my doctor told me they needed to remove a part of my pancreas and that I would be left with a horizontal, 2 inch long scar. After several hours in surgery, I finally woke up with 9 tubes coming out of me, and a very large vertical scar that went all the way down my tummy. I was in shock. To be honest, until that moment I understood the severity of my accident and if I hadn’t had surgery when I did, I wouldn’t be here today!
I had a tube in each nostril, in my neck, 2 IV’s in each arm, 2 drainage tubes on the left side of my abdomen, an epidural in my lower back and a catheter to pee from. I felt like an octopus. The recovery was extremely painful and I wouldn’t wish this recovery on anybody else. Your pancreas is quite far back in your body, which stumped my doctors on why I hurt my pancreas and not my spleen or stomach. In other words, in order for my body to recover it had to literally learn how to digest and process food again. All of my insides had been moved and rearranged, along with missing 35% of my organ. Every morning in the hospital I was woken up at 6am so that the staff could drain the tubes that were sucking out enzymes form the inside of my abdominal area. I could feel the suction when they would close me back up.
I spent a total of 11 days in the hospital – each day having a new tube pulled out of me. The tube pulling is probably my hardest memory to overcome. Some of the tubes were at least a foot long, all curled up inside of me, so having that literally PULLED out of you (by a trainee nurse….) was honestly horrendous. Each tube had a its own horrifying story. A day after my surgery – I shocked my doctors when I asked to walk. My boyfriend helped me out of bed with all my tubes, and they took me into a training room to walk around. It honestly felt amazing. I was used to a very active lifestyle before my accident, which I was told over and over again is what saved me: my body was ready for battle.
*** What surprised you the most about Sophie’s experience? Do you have any advice for a long recovery process? Comment below :)***